Nassau County officials issue evacuation orders

During a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Nassau County Emergency Management Agency Director Bill Estep said, “Emergency services will be evacuated off the island (when the 6 p.m. mandatory evacuation goes into effect).” He stressed that any residents remaining on the island will be without law enforcement and emergency responders availability.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said Thursday that mandatory evacuations for residents living in zones A, C and F as well as in manufactured homes will begin at 6 p.m. Friday. He urged all residents to begin evacuating voluntarily as soon as possible to avoid congestion on the roadways.

“Roads will be crowded throughout the duration of the storm, so be patient when driving,” Leeper said. “Other counties will be evacuating at the same time. All available Nassau County sheriff officers will be working 12-hour shifts around the clock to ensure safety inland.”

A link to the county Emergency Management Department's information on evacuations and determining your zone can be found here: www.nassaucountyfl.com/eoc

For a higher resolution version of the evacuation zone map, see the PDF and JPEG files in the county's DropBox folder:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/da4jz4e9ud10vy6/AAD7_hNgUtCO34r0nmfk9f0da?dl=0

According to Leeper, the county will open the following four shelters at the same time the mandatory evacuations begin:

• Hilliard Middle/Senior High School (accommodates special needs);

• Callahan Middle School (accommodates pets);

• Callahan Intermediate School;

• Bryceville Elementary School.

A state of emergency for Nassau County was declared early Wednesday, Sept. 6 at a special meeting of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners, who voted unanimously to approve a resolution that aligns with Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration for the state in preparation for Hurricane Irma, a major hurricane forecast to hit Florida.

The Fernandina Beach City Commission also voted at a Tuesday night meeting to approve an order to put the city in a state of emergency. According to City Clerk Caroline Best, the declaration does not change any of the protocol of the city’s various departments during a storm but allows the city to be eligible for reimbursement from state funding agencies for any money the city spends on emergency services during a natural disaster.

According to the city’s documentation of actions taken at the meeting, “Mayor Robin Lentz requested citizens stay alert and be prepared for impending Hurricane Irma and stay tuned to city Facebook pages for the most accurate updates and information.”

Nassau County’s public schools will be closed Friday, Sept. 8 and Monday, Sept. 11. The Nassau County School District shared this update on Wednesday afternoon: “All public schools and district offices in the Nassau County School District will be closed Friday, September 8 and Monday, September 11, 2017 due to the potential for severe weather associated with Hurricane Irma. All school related activities are also canceled. The Yulee High School and West Nassau High School varsity football games will be played Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.”

As of Thursday afternoon, forecasters from the National Hurricane Center said the “eye of extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma (is) moving between the north coast of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands” and indicated the storm’s winds have lowered slightly to 175 mph.

The latest coastal watches/warnings and forecast cone for the storm’s center issued by the National Hurricane Center predict the center of Irma’s forecast path will be offshore of St. Johns County by 8 a.m. on Monday.

“The cone contains the probable path of the storm center but does not show the size of the storm. Hazardous conditions can occur outside of the cone,” says a note posted with the map.

For a long-range forecast, go to www.nhc.noaa.gov to see updates.

According to the state of Florida’s executive order, the five-day forecast from the National Hurricane Center predicts that by Saturday, Sept. 9, Hurricane Irma will be located somewhere north of Cuba and south of the Andros Islands in the Bahamas. Current forecast models predict that Hurricane Irma will make landfall somewhere in south Florida. Because of its size, Hurricane Irma poses a severe threat to the entire State of Florida.

“Unfortunately, we have to be here again talking about this almost one year after Hurricane Matthew,” stated Billy Estep, Nassau County Director of Emergency Management during the county commissioner’s morning meeting. “We are laying contingencies for whatever could possibly happen and also working with forecasters. It’s too close to call at this point.”

Estep was first on the podium to update commissioners on his department and led a host of county officials who each offered both preliminary advice and community directives that would best help residents prepare for Irma. The county’s state of local emergency is declared to last seven days during the emergency for all territory within the boundaries of Nassau County.

“We will make decisions by Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening to close bridges. … I’m trying to not go too far out on this (storm) because there is still a level of unpredictability.” Estep said. “Our role in emergency management is to prepare you for the worst case scenario and hope and pray the Lord spares us and we wind up with much less,” he added.

According to the county’s emergency management web page in reference to emergency evacuations, “When sustained winds exceed 30 mph bridges become unsafe - the Dept. of Transportation will close the SR-200 bridge if (sustained) winds reach 40 mph.”

Chairman Danny Leeper said, “If you live in low lying areas prone to flood or a mobile home, don’t wait for somebody to tell you to leave. Have a plan. If you feel like you need to go, leave and go early. Have a plan.”

Nassau County Council on Aging Executive Director Janice Ancrum said her agency is working to help seniors in the county.

“Shelf-stable meals for seniors and people with special needs are available now,” said Ancrum, who has already secured transportation to collection points. “We have identified some seniors that need shelter now because they live alone and other seniors have become paranoid and are asking how they will get out.”

The county made available 10,000 sandbags at noon Thursday, Sept. 7. Residents are limited to 10 to 15 bags each at the following locations that will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.:

Yulee Ballpark
86142 Goodbread Road
Yulee, Florida 32097

Callahan County Bldg.
45401 Mickler Street
Callahan, Fl 32011

Bailey Road Maintenance Yard
3163 Bailey Road
Fernandina Beach, Fl 32034

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